The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ (IRGC) Intelligence Organization says several people, charged with having connection with “foreign media”, have been arrested in mainly Sunni populated province of Sistan & Baluchestan, southeastern Iran.
Without referring to the number and identity of the detainees, the organization has described them as the “heads of hostile foreign media circles” who were active in employing and training “unaware youth” to “circulate anti-unity and fake news”.
The recent detainees in Sistan & Baluchestan have been placed behind bars almost a month after reports concerning the kidnap and rape of young girls shook mainly Sunni Baluch city of Iranshahr.
Iranshahr Sunni clergy, Mawlavi Tayeb Mollazehi’s disclosure of the rape cases, during his sermon on Friday, June 15, stirred controversy in the Sunni-populated province.
The local Sunni Baluch Friday Prayer Leader said that the rapist, “a rich man” has “confessed to 41 counts of rape.”
Meanwhile he called on family members of the victims to come forward and file complaints about the rape case.
Two days after the sermon, hundreds of people staged protest demonstrations in front of the local governor’s office demanding government attention to the case.
The allegations put the Islamic Republic’s judicial officials immediately on the defensive.
On June 18, Iran’s Prosecutor-General, mid-ranking Shi’ite cleric Mohammad Jafar Montazeri threatened to prosecute the local Sunni Imam for disclosing that 41 girls have been raped in that city.
Montazeri tried to downplay the gravity of the case, arguing that in an extremely traditional society it is difficult for the Sunni Friday Prayer Leader to ask all the victims’ families to admit that their daughters have been raped. “This is a matter of honor and few people may come forward to support the Friday Prayer Leader’s statement” Montazeri said.
In the meantime, director of a website defending Baluch minority rights, “Baluch Activists Campaign” (BAC), that had covered the protest rallies, declared that his brother, Abdullah Bozorgzadeh had been arrested during the demonstrations.
Confirming the news, New York based Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported last Monday that Bozorgzadeh is still behind bars in an unidentified detention center, while judiciary officials have refrained to make any comment on his fate.
The director of Justice Department in Sistan and Baluchestan, Ebrahim Hamidi disclosed last month that a person charged with “provoking people” and “news feed for foreign media” had been arrested in Iranshahr. However, he did not identify the detainee. Many human rights activists believe that Hamidi was referring to Abdollah Bozorgzadeh.
Twenty days later and after a sit-in protest outside the Governor’s office, Abdollah Bozorgzadeh was allowed to have a short telephone conversion with his mother, telling her in a trembling voice that he was well.
IRGC’s intelligence unit was promoted to an “organization” level by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s order, months after widespread protests against the reelection of the incumbent, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009. IRGC played a pivotal role in suppressing the protests that shook Iran for almost a year.
The organization, that operates in parallel with the government’s Intelligence Ministry and judiciary’s intelligence department, is believed to be behind detention of thousands of people suspected of being “anti-Islamic Revolution” dissidents.
Sistan & Baluchestan is a volatile province because of its ethnic make-up, which is a mixture of Sunnis and Shias and for being on the drug transit route from southwest Asia to Europe via Iran, as well as for occasional insurgency of local tribes that at times have even taken members of Iranian security forces hostage.